The currency of Sri Lanka is Sri Lankan Rupee (LKR). Rupee amounts are usually written as (e Rs. 100 or 100/=. One US dollar is roughly equivalent to Rs. 200. Most tourist hotels and tourist service providers prefer to quote in US dollars instead of rupees. While US dollars are accepted in some major tourist hotels and service providers it is mandatory to have some amount of Sri Lankan rupee to pay for all other payments.
The easiest place to exchange foreign currencies into Sri Lankan rupees is in the Airport. Just after you pass customs and enter the arrival area there are currency exchange places operated by major commercial banks. Rates are roughly the same in all those places. While there are other official and unofficial currency exchangers offering slightly higher rates outside the airport it is advisable to exchange currency in the airport because it is safe, fast and easy. The following currencies are generally exchangeable in Sri Lanka.
Great Britain Pound
For those who use other currencies, it is advisable to bring one of the above currencies to avoid troubles in exchanging. Sri Lanka uses both coins and notes. Widely used coins are 1, 2, 5 and 10 while notes are 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 and 5000. 10, 200 and 2000 notes are valid but rarely used. When you leave the country you can exchange Sri Lankan rupees back to one of the above currencies. But coins are not accepted for exchange. So it’s better if you spend all the coins before coming to the airport.
When you pay an amount it is always best to give the exact amount because most of the time most small shops and sellers are out of change. So if you get only 5000 notes, when you buy from supermarkets you can use those big notes to build up some 1000, 500 and 100 notes to use when you do street shopping or eating.
Credit cards are accepted in major shopping malls, restaurants and hotels but not most small shops, street food stalls, small hotels, museums, and similar places that require you to buy tickets do not accept credit cards. VISA and MASTERCARD are the most commonly accepted credit card brands. American Express is also available but not as widely as the prior two. Support for other credit card brands is virtually non-existent.
ATM machines are available in cities throughout the country. Most ATMs only accept VISA or Mastercard. American Express cards are only accepted on ATMs of a limited number of banks such as “Nation Trust Bank” and “Commercial Bank”. It is always a good idea to carry enough cash in case an ATM is not available in the area which can usually happen in sparsely populated North and East areas of the country.